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Premier Doug Ford announces
$28.5 billion transit plan for Toronto

This week, Premier Doug Ford announced that his government would build a new rapid transit project through central and east-end Toronto that he’s dubbing “the Ontario Line”. This proposal is part of a $28.5 billion plan to expand “Ontario’s” transit network.


Click on the image to enlarge it.

The Ontario Line, extending from the Ontario Science Centre to Ontario Place, is the new name for the Downtown Relief Line subway. It’s a key component of the Ontario’s transformational plan for Toronto transit.

According to a government of Ontario news release, “Transit users and commuters across Ontario can look forward to transportation improvements as part of the Government of Ontario’s historic new transportation vision, Premier Doug Ford announced… This is the most money ever invested to get shovels in the ground and get new subways built.”

The province expects that the new rapid transit line will cost $10.9 billion. It will start near Exhibition Place / Ontario Place, wind its way along an unspecified route to Osgoode Station. It will then follow the path that the City of Toronto has already approved for the line to Pape Station and then head northward to end at the Science Centre Station on the under-construction Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit line. The line would mostly be underground, although parts of it may be elevated, especially where the line crosses the Don River, although whether that means the downtown Don-River crossing or the East York crossing isn’t clear.

The premier has already announced that this line will use alternate technology, instead of regular TTC traditional subway cars, but Ontario has not specified what this technology would be. A side issue to using different technology than elsewhere on the TTC’s rapid-transit system is finding a site to store and maintain the trains. Under the current proposal for the line, the TTC would have kept the trains in the Greenwood Yard, with a separate tunnel to connect the yard with the new subway near Pape Station.

Ontario Line.jpg

Click on the image to enlarge it. Note that route, station locations and station names are not final.

According to a post on Metrolinx’ news blog,

“The Ontario line will:

  • be the largest single expansion in Toronto’s subway history;
  • twice the length of the proposed Downtown Relief Line (DRL) for approximately the same cost;
  • have the same peak capacity as the TTC’s existing Line 1;
  • move twice as many people per day as the proposed DRL, with ridership expected to be more than 400,000 people per weekday;
  • add 50% more subway capacity to downtown;
  • divert as much as 20% of current riders of the TTC’s Line 1 to the Ontario Line; and
  • bring transit to underserviced priority neighbourhoods like Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park.”

The City recently completed an environmental assessment for the Osgoode-to-Pape section of the line, generally the last step before a project goes ahead. (Rod Phillips, Ontario’s Minister of the Environment and Parks, approved the assessment report late last year.) The City tentatively targetted 2029 as the date for completing the project after it recently approved a plan to speed up construction. The government also has to undergo the same process for the new parts of the line before any construction can start.

Relief Line South.png

The City of Toronto / TTC approved alignment and stations for the Relief Line South.

The provincial plan includes three more major transit projects:

  • The Yonge north subway extension, costing $5.6 billion and opening “soon after the Ontario Line”;
  • The Scarborough subway extension, costing $5.5 billion and “delivered before 2030”; and
  • The* Eglinton Crosstown west extension*, costing $4.7 billion and “delivered before 2031”.

The projects require a total of $28.5 billion, of which the province has committed $11.2 billion. The Ontario news release adds, “This funding over-delivers on the government’s commitment to put $5 billion into subway extensions.”

The city and TTC had already committed to extending the Line 2 Bloor - Danforth subway one stop to Scarborough Centre Station at a cost of about $3.9 billion. The city expected to open the extension by 2026, just in time for the Scarborough RT trains reach the end of their operating life. The Ontario plan adds two more stations on McCowan Road - one each at Lawrence and Sheppard Avenues East. It also adds as much as four more years to the timeline and $2 billion to the bill for delivering this project.


The approved, one-stop Line 2 extension in Scarborough.

The new proposal for extending the TTC’s Line 1 Yonge - University subway to Richmond Hill is mostly the same as the TTC, Metrolinx, the City of Toronto and York Region have already planned. But, the province is now affirming that the line will not open until the Ontario Line is complete. Ontario now acknowledges that extending the Yonge line northward would result in overcrowding the line unless the Ontario Line is open first.

Yonge-north subway.jpg

Proposed alignment for the Line 1 extension to Richmond Hill.

With the fourth project, extending the Crosstown LRT westward, the province has determined that this line would be underground west of Royal York Road, nearly doubling the price tag to $4 billion. The City previously planned to operate this line in the middle of Eglinton Avenue West but was awaiting input from Metrolinx and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority on a further extension to Toronto Pearson International Airport before finalizing its plans.

The provincial proposal is silent on two more vitally necessary components of the city’s rapid transit network - extending the Crosstown LRT eastward to U of T Scarborough and Malvern and building a waterfront transit line. While a possible Ontario Line station at Ontario Place would definitely improve access to the waterfront, it doesn’t help to improve service where it’s most needed - in the rapidly developing eastern Portlands.

Ontario expects the Government of Canada and the City to also help fund these projects. But, the Premier has also said if other governments don’t step up, that the province would be prepared to ‘back stop’ the work, especially the extra costs for the Line 2 extension into Scarborough.

As part of the announcement today, Premier Ford reaffirmed the government’s commitment to working with the City of Toronto to upload the TTC subway infrastructure.